Things I Forgot About Working in a Professional Kitchen

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

-200 Pippin apple tarts with prune-brown sugar compote and cinnamon sugar. Served with apple cider butterscotch, mascarpone sabayon, and almond crumble. Sabayon and crumble not pictured because I had to finish plating these bastards for service.-

1. Working on your feet for a 14 hour shift is hard. Running around kitchens, brushing tarts with egg wash, teaching culinary students, and running under the orders of a lot of captains can really work you out. This ordeal is made intensely more difficult when your husband has co-opted your old kitchen clogs as his work shoes, resulting in them becoming warped and no longer fitting for your feet. This results in feet that are covered in so many callouses and bruises your feet turn as purple and swollen as a fresh summer plum.

2. It's said that you can consider yourself an expert at something once you've put 10,000 hours of work into it. This may be true but professional kitchens do offer crash courses that certainly count for at least a 1000 hours in the space of a single shift. For example, take peeling apples. You've probably peeled scores of them in your lifetime. However, you will find a noticeable uptick in skill and speed after you stand there for three hours peeling, coring and slicing 200 of those fall season fuckers.

My top time to peel, core, and slice an apple into 24 wave thin wedges? 17 seconds. I didn't cut my hand once.

3. If you want to lose weight, work in a professional kitchen. There's a practice to this madness. The thing is that most chefs I know taste throughout the day so it functions enough as a barebones meal. Plus, in the heat of those chaotic hours when fire and blood both sear with enough white hot energy to rival a newborn star, the adrenal glands are pumping out so much adrenaline that it could start a car. All this adrenaline is more than enough to bypass any hunger pangs, but make the desire to eat food altogether repulsive except when you find a rare five minutes to stop.

Then again, why the fuck are you stopping? There's work to do.

In addition, after laboring over a dish for seven hours the last thing you want to do is look at it, let alone taste it. Screw that noise. Give me some water, a quick bite of who cares what from another person's station, and let's get back to it.

4. Being bossy is easy and taking orders is easy. It's nice to have someone else in control of your life sometimes. There's no weighing the pros or cons. No deciding what route to take. Should I plate in five minutes or right now? No worries, as Chef will tell me.

In the kitchen, unless you're the chef, you're someone's bitch. You do what you are told when you are told to do it. It eliminates a lot of guesswork in life, assuming you have the skills needed to get the job done. And you should, otherwise what the hell are you doing there?

Of course, in the grand hierarchy you may likely be in charge of someone else. You find a quick five seconds to teach a quick lesson in the middle of plating. When someone plates it wrong and they want to bail, you force them to correct their mistake and get back to work. That's how they learn. It's how you learned. Under pressure. Under fire.

When it's all done, answer questions. Offer practical advise where necessary.

In a professional kitchen you are both teacher and student.

5. There is a distrust between sweet and savory in most kitchens. Savory is chaotic. Sweet is organized. Savory is boyish and brash. Sweet is reserved and posh. A sibling rivalry cannot be helped.

It's much better these days. However, they are two sovereign nations with tenuous peace agreement.

Unless, of course, Front of House becomes uppity. Then unity between Sweet and Savory reigns until the enemy is destroyed.

6. I miss working in professional kitchens. Then I remember that now I have weekends, holidays, and better pay; and I miss it a little bit less. 


  1. Fantastic post Garrett. 17 seconds? Really?

  2. Loved this behind the scenes description, and also, apple cider butterscotch recipe, pleeeasssse?

  3. Your description of a professional kitchen hit the nail on the head. Good grief, how I remember those days...sometimes I start to miss them. Thank you for reminding me of the error of my ways.

  4. Spot on! Some days I miss it as well....the camaraderie, the noise, the creations. But I do love having Saturdays off......


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